Billy Slater faces a tough test in his comeback game against Brisbane, says Justin Hodges.

Broncos a big test for Billy: Hodges

Many champions of our game have had their careers cruelly cut short by injuries which is why it is so exciting for everyone associated with rugby league to see Billy Slater back playing for the Storm on Thursday night.

Bill has achieved everything there is to achieve in the game and will go down as one of the greatest ever fullbacks but there's no doubt he'd be waking up on Thursday morning probably as nervous as at any other time in his career.

He knows all the hard work he's done over the past two years to get to this point where he could play football again but in the back of his mind somewhere will be doubts – however small – that his body can still handle playing in the NRL.

There has been only the one game in between two shoulder reconstructions over the past two years for Bill and I'm sure there were times when he didn't think he'd play again.

He will take the field against the Broncos knowing if it was to go again that would spell the end of his career but at least he can do so knowing that he has had a wonderful career and that there is a bright future awaiting him after football.

We all want to see Bill come back and get through unscathed but he is coming back in what is always a big game against the Broncos and his shoulder will get tested.‌‌

 


There are plenty of blokes in the Brisbane team who know Bill well and have played with him a lot over the years but there will be times in the game where they have to get physical and test that shoulder out.

Whenever he plays there is a target on his back purely because of the influence he has on that side and you can't go into a game against him without doing your homework and knowing where he likes to pop up on the field.

You can't back off when he's bringing it back from a kick and if he comes through the middle like we know he can you have to be ready and even though we all want to see him do well, once you step onto the field you're fair game.

You don't ever go out there trying to hurt blokes but they will test his shoulder out and hopefully Bill has done all the work to get through it OK.

You'd also hope that playing at fullback for a team as good as the Storm he won't be required to make too many tackles on Thursday night and his teammates will do everything they can to protect him.

The first big collision will give Bill some sense of confidence that his body can still handle it but the big test will come when he wakes up on Friday morning.

Obviously being his first game in more than a year he is going to wake up sore but if he wakes up so sore that he can't train or can't back up the next week then that might be a sign that you have pushed your body as far as it can go.

Being a superstar player comes expectation but everyone just needs to give him time to get back into the game.

Don't expect big things, just give him time to build back into the game because it's going to be fantastic just to see Billy Slater back playing football.

Final thought

There have been plenty of points scored and a few blowouts in the opening two weeks of the season but it's too early to suggest there is a trend developing of a more open style of play in 2017. No matter what you do in pre-season nothing can make up for the fitness you get in playing games and with new players coming in to each team they're just sorting each other out at the moment. After a month or so I think you'll see the competition tighten up again.